Analysis of current data regarding law enforcement on Israeli soldiers suspected of harming Palestinians and their property in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shows that despite changes made in recent years, in practice, there has been no material change in military responses to criminal activity by soldiers against Palestinians. The military law enforcement system endeavors to avoid investigating and prosecuting soldiers who harm Palestinians and fails to protect Palestinians against offenses committed by Israeli soldiers and commanders.
The data on law enforcement against soldiers who harmed Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is based on information provided by the Israeli army in response to Yesh Din’s requests.
In 2017-2018, the MAG [Military Advocate General] Corps received 430 complaints regarding suspected harm to Palestinians by soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. So far, 84 criminal investigations have been opened, accounting for just 20% of the total number of complaints in which a decision on further measures had been made. Three-hundred and thirty complaints were closed with no criminal investigation, some following a preliminary inquiry ordered by the MAG Corps.
The number of investigations opened in 2017-2018 is extremely low compared to the average number of investigations opened in previous years, reflecting a sharp drop in the number of criminal investigations against soldiers suspected of harming Palestinians. Yesh Din estimates this drop reflects a deliberate policy of raising the bar for launching criminal investigations, the outcome of which is that criminal investigations are almost exclusively opened in the most outrageous cases.
Following the trend observed in recent years, the proportion of investigations that yielded sufficient evidence and culminated in the prosecution of suspects remains extremely low: as of May 2019, only 3 (3.2%) of all investigation files opened in 2017-2018 into suspected harm to Palestinians resulted in indictments. The combined effect of the reduction in the number of investigations and the extremely low rate of prosecution in the few investigations that are opened is that the odds that a Palestinian would see his or her complaint against a soldier who harmed them lead to the prosecution of that soldier are minuscule: Only 0.7% of the complaints made by Palestinians regarding harm they suffered at the hands of soldiers in 2017-2018 resulted in the prosecution of suspects.
As part of the military’s efforts to implement the recommendations of the Turkel and Ciechanover Commissions, in 2017, the Military Advocate General’s Corps began tracking the duration of processing complaints made by Palestinians and, in 2018, presented significant improvements in the average time taken to reach a decision as to whether to open an investigation. This improvement comes at the cost of a sharp decline in the number of investigations.
The figures presented in the data sheet indicate that, in fact, nothing has changed in the system’s response to criminal activity by soldiers against Palestinians. The changes that have been made help the military present better figures and deflect criticism even as it continues to give soldiers near-complete immunity when they harm Palestinians or their property.